Courtney walked onto the teleportation pad, appearing in Tabitha's office instantaneously. She rubbed at her eyes as she orientated herself to her new location, shaking off the slight dizziness she felt. She was tired. Drained. Needed to reboot. But that wasn't going to happen any time soon.
Maxie had called on her, and she knew she had to fulfill her duty. She was more than happy to as well, but her desire to power down for a nice long time was strong. It took almost all of her willpower to overcome it.
As was usual for him, Tabitha was sitting at his desk, hunched over his screen. Since he was technically in his off hours, he'd shed the sweater and coat of his uniform for a plain black T-shirt that was doubtlessly more comfortable for the large man. Beside his keyboard laid a small plate of scones and a mug of black coffee conspicuously missing its steam.
Without speaking, Courtney sat herself in the chair across the desk, keeping her back straight. She crossed her legs at the ankle and folded her hands in her lap. Tabitha didn't immediately look up at her, his red eyes focused on his computer monitor. Courtney remained comfortably silent.
After only a few minutes, Tabitha reached out for his coffee and took a deep drink of the doubtlessly cold liquid that twisted his face. He swallowed, barely, and let out a disgusted “Eugh!”, which Courtney found rather amusing.
Putting the mug down with a shudder, he looked to Courtney with his usual smile. “I really lost track of time on that one,” he said with a chuckle. “For all I know, you've been sitting there for two hours!”
Focusing her gaze on her hands, she responded, “I just...got here...sir.”
“...Right,” Tabitha said, and he got to his feet to stretch out his body. “So this project the boss proposed,” he started, but put that thought on hold. “Have you eaten yet?” he asked her.
“...No,” she responded, her eyebrows furrowing. “That's...not relevant.”
“On the contrary!” Tabitha declared, and he pushed the plate of scones to her. “We've been working together long enough for me to know that you focus better when you've eaten something.”
Courtney remained silent, but it was true. Whenever Courtney was hungry, it was like everything was more challenging, exhausting. Hunger could lead to a system-wide shut down. She knew this about herself. She was surprised to learn that Tabitha had noticed. Not that she ever tried to hide it—it was pretty obvious that Courtney was different—but Tabitha usually seemed too distracted with being himself to notice nuanced little things about the people around him.
As she was completing that analysis, Courtney picked up one of the scones and took a bite, the sweet-tart taste of cheri berries bursting on her tongue. Not her favorite flavor. Too...high-pitched, she'd describe it. But she finished the scone as she listened to Tabitha.
“As I was saying,” Tabitha said, settling back into his chair. It creaked a little as he leaned back. “The boss's new project. It's quite ambitious. He wants us to restore an island. A whole island! Terraform it, essentially. Make it habitable again for pokemon. Boss sure thinks big, doesn't he?”
“Terraform...” Courtney said, mostly to herself. Already her mind was working, mapping out all the possibilities she could think of. She'd had some experience in researching ecological manipulation during her time in the Orre region. Her group had made a lot of progress in their research before the project had been suddenly shut down.
She still had access to that research, however. It would give them a start.
“Location coordinates?” Courtney suddenly asked, cutting Tabitha off from his rambling. Although she hadn't been paying attention, she immediately regretted her action, knowing Tabitha would think it rude. She bit her lip and kept her gaze low, expecting him to reprimand her.
She was surprised once again that morning, as he answered her question without mention of offense, simply reading the coordinates of the island off of his computer screen. “That's a little north of Mt. Chimney. According to my research, it had been utterly destroyed by a submarine volcanic eruption.”
His crimson gaze moved from the computer to her again, his usual smile still in place.
This wasn't a new development. Tabitha was always like this to Courtney. And every time, she was caught off guard by it. Not that he was particularly abusive, but Tabitha was...self-absorbed. And dramatic. Very dramatic. So it was a logical conclusion that, should Courtney cease to pay him the attention he usually demanded, he would react in his usual manner. With ranting. And big arm gestures. In all this time, Courtney could not figure out why.
Perhaps, she thought, it was because they were of equal rank, although Tabitha had been known to have his usual bouts of melodrama during particularly heated debates with Maxie. Especially during the weather crisis. And the meteor threat. And dinner.
Then she thought, perhaps it was because they were intellectually matched. They both came from scientific research backgrounds: Tabitha from the research and development team of Devon Corp and Courtney from lab and field experimentation projects. Often during the development stages of Team Magma they had stayed up into the small hours of the morning, discussing and debating the realization and feasibility of Maxie's goals. Perhaps she had earned a special place with him, in which she was exempt from his usual temper tantrums.
Then again, she thought, perhaps it was because she was female. After all, Courtney was different, and maybe Tabitha was ignorant enough to attribute that difference to her sex. It was a possibility, although one she hoped wouldn't be true. If that were the case, she would be disappointed, but not surprised.
She didn't know for certain. She wanted to.
“Team Magma to Courtney!” Tabitha called, pulling Courtney from her wandering thoughts. She blinked several times and looked to him, already on his feet again and pulling his red sweater over his black shirt. “Ah, she's back!” he teased. “Boss called. Wants us in his office.”
She watched as he gracefully moved from behind his desk, snatching his Magma Admin coat from the back of the chair and shrugging it on in one fluid motion. Courtney was often impressed by how light Tabitha was on his feet. Sometimes she envied his grace.
Rising from the chair as Tabitha walked over to the teleportation pad, she called out, “...Wait.”
Caught off guard, as she never really commanded him to do anything, he stopped in his tracks and looked back at her. She wondered if he might have been concerned or confused, although searching his face wouldn't yield answers for her.
She walked over to him, standing in front of him, and she forced herself to meet his gaze. She didn't often do that. She didn't like it, but she knew well enough when it was important.
“Just now...I wasn't...paying attention,” she pointed out.
He shrugged and smiled. “You sure weren't,” he agreed.
“Should I, Tabitha, be mad about that?”
“You like...attention. Heh...a lot of attention.” His eyebrow raised at her comment, and she cast her gaze down at the floor in response. That surely must have made him mad.
But instead he laughed! Courtney looked up at him again, totally confused. “I won't deny that,” he said and made one of his big arm gestures. “But! I also like results. You get those results. And I know you very well now, my dear. When you zone out like that and go into your little thought trance, I know you're thinking about the topic at hand, thinking about how to get results.”
Courtney was speechless. Tabitha had just provided one of the most accurate profiles of Courtney's mind anyone who wasn't Courtney could have provided.
Tabitha laughed again. “I don't think I've ever seen that expression on your face!” he teased. “Oh, wait—now you're mad.”
Courtney didn't feel mad, however, although she was a little...irked at his teasing. But not mad. But...she still knew how to get revenge.
“You...want to know...something?” she said, and Tabitha raised both his eyebrows now.
“Oh? I sure do,” he said.
“You're—hah!—late.” Just as he was starting to work out what she meant, Courtney jumped onto the teleportation pad and hurried to Maxie's office. Tabitha was right behind her, his booming laugh ringing down the hall.